Preemptive packaging – innovative plastic food packaging – includes related aerticles


Amid all the discrete markets, materials and technologies that define plastic food packaging, Allen Smart of James River Corp. captured the essence best when he observed, “While 1980s consumers demanded convenience, 1990s consumers look for quality plus convenience and value.”

“Save money, help the environment, and deliver less mess upon product preparation. When you deliver those perceptions, your product will have success this year,” adds Mona Doyle, president of the Consumer Network, at the conclusion of her spirited presentation. She cited three areas of opportunities for marketers: perceived cost savings versus alternatives, perceived bulk and “eco-friendliness”, and perceived mess reduction.

“‘Mess’ is a four-letter word for food prepared at home, and is an excuse to spend more for a product,” Doyle emphasized. She said consumers have an ongoing self-debate about product-buying decisions at the point of purchase and are constantly making tradeoffs. Consumers 25 years of age and older believe packaging that isn’t resealable is “stupid packaging”; but if there is a cost difference, they will opt for cheaper, non-resealable packaging.

Here’s a summary of other notable viewpoints from FoodPlas.

Aseptic opportunities? Dr. Albrecht Ostermann, of Germany’s PKL Verpackungssysteme Gmbh (Combibloc), noted that 45% of all juices and juice drinks in Germany are packaged aseptically. In the U.S., the figure is 10%.

Storage ban alert in foodservice: Merle Moeckel, director of technical sales, Dean Foods’ Amboy Specialty Foods division, Dixon, Ilk, noted that 20 states have passed laws banning storage of foods in the package the product comes in at foodservice locations. He says expectations are that within four years all states will have similar bans.

Trend toward shorter shelf life: Alfred Alberghini, president, Polytechnique Ltd., a consultancy based in Dunwoody, Ga., noted that the Japanese market associates a maximum six-month shelf life with freshness; most shelf-stable plastic packaging in Japan is coded for three to six months. “We’ll see shorter shelf lives happening here,” Alberghini said.

FoodPlas, the industry forum that presents new advances and ideas in plastics packaging, is sponsored by the Plastics Institute of America Inc., Fairfield, N.J. Total attendance at the 1992 conference, which ran March 2-6, was 128, up from 115 last year. For information on conference proceedings or details on next year’s conference, contact PIA executive director William Sacks, 201/808-5950.



* The inherent benefits of product visibility are a plus in applications where appropriate. Package “windows” and the like comprise one route to product visibility, but having a clear container takes the approach furthest. Wilmington, Del.-based Du Pont Co.’s Unda Bateman detailed how the company’s Fortex process, a unique thermoforming method, combines with a special polyester to provide clear, monolayer hot-fill or retort possibilities fur foods filled, treated or used at high temperatures. Jams, jellies, relishes, fruit beverages and puddings are among the potential markets. The most appropriate products may be those currently in packages with no barrier but that require additional shelf life for distribution. Another functionality plus for transparent packages is in foodservice markets, noted Merle Moeckel, director of technical sales, Dean Foods’ Amboy Specialty Foods division, Dixon, III., Clear foodservice packages enable quick recognition of what the product is and what condition it is in, regardless of the literacy level of the operator. A down side to transparency is its negative impact on light-sensitive products. WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH…

* Growth in shelf-stable meals category has slowed ta a snail’s pace. Steven Childs, manager package engineering, foods division, The Dial Corp., one of the pioneers in this category with its Lunch Buckets, attributes the slowdown to inferior “me too” products. Today, there are more than 250 different items in the shelf-stable microwavable meals category; more than 40 new flavors of shelf-stables came out in 1991. Childs pointed to a recent survey that found 67% of consumers made a purchase in this category, yet only 38% still use these products, indicating a high level (29%) of dissatisfaction for one reason or another.

Childs noted the actions The Dial Corp. has taken to respond to the encroachment upon its turf. These include:

Marketing: Inlate1991, Dial restructured its marketing program, cutting prices to bring its product more in line with the competition: 21% cut for Lunch Buckets, 23% for Light Balance.

RefOrmulation: Product and consumer testing of its microwave foods is at an all-time high.

Package engineering: Dial will be selling its soups and meals in 7.5-oz. instead of 8,5-oz. microwavable cups. Dial also has made strides in barrier technology: It is using 50% of the amount of barrier used in the past while lowering the container’s oxygen transmission.


* Controlled/modified atmosphere packaging is poised to accommodate increasing consumer demand for fresh or minimally processed foods, noted Dr. Aaron Brody of Rubbright-Brock/Inc., Eacdan, Minn. The focus of that potential may lie in the packaging of fresh fruits, a product category that strikes to the heart of consumer demand for high quality, fresh, nutritional foods.

Brody pointed to research at the Universityof British Columbia, Canada, in which freshly cut fruits or vegetables (and fish fillets) are cooled to [0.deg.C] and exposed to mixtures of reduced oxygen/high carbon dioxide plus argon. Complementary research at Liquid Air has studied the potential use of non-conventional gases such as argon, nean, krypto n and xenon for MAP applications. At the cellular or microbial level, noble gases apparently effectively, suppress the development of some microorganisms when superimposed over oxygen at modest pressures. Davis, Calif.-based consultant Devon Zagory detailed a systematic approach combinin produce respiration data with packaging film permeabilities to oxygen and carbon dioxide at the temperature of use. They are all critical aspects in facilitating the introduction of high quality, nutritious fresh produce.

Zagory also noted research involving engineered films that would allay fears about anaerobic conditions in CAP/MAP methods. He said ma or fruit and vegetable marketers–Do e, Sunkist, etc.-are now seeing MAP technology as something they need to be in on.

“A specific technology is less critical than the notion of integrating those elements of various technologies that synergistically can deliver the total benefits required,” said Brody.


* Thar’s golden opportunity in them-thar warehouse clubs. Kate Kloos, new markets marketing for Boise, Idaho-based Ore-Ida Foods Inc., noted that the food and sundries portion of club sales, $14.8 billion in 1991, is likely to reach $37.8 billion by 1995. Warehouse clubs or club stores, which include chains like Sam’s, Price Club and Costco, are large warehouse-like stores characterized by membership fees, cash-only sales, low prices and a selective product mix. Kloos pointed out that 12% of Americans have club store memberships. “Packaging is the key to success in warehouse club stores,” she said. Products packaged for club stores are not only a hybrid between retail size and foodservice size, they have special requirements of their own. Foodservice packaging is too generic, bulky and usually unsuitable; retail units are too small, and the register ring is too low. A rule of thumb is that unit sizes should be priced between $5 and $10.

Douglas Howe, senior research scientist for the Quaker Oats Co., Barrington, III., offered a check list for warehouse club packaging that includes:

* All products must be shipped in stretch-wrapped, palletload quantities.

* All products from pallet loads should be ready for sale after removal of the stretch-wrap.

* The empty corrugated tray/case should be reusable by the customer to carry purchased product from the store. Product weight should be around 40 pounds or less.

* There should be minimum corrugated around the product.

* The product facing should be on the 40-in. pallet side.

“You must figure out how the member will transport and use your product,” Kloos said. She also noted other considerations for the larger sizes used by club members: single-serve units; resealable features; freezer damage protection; easy dispensing; and maintenance of freshness.

The high-growth club marketplace could be one of the best food opportunities in the 1990s.

COPYRIGHT 1992 Business News Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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